I'm in SE Kansas on 40 acres, I have 2 acres I want to develop into a food forest/forest garden. The area is currently grass and lespedeza, but the roots are shallow (2-3") and the soil is extremely hard and compacted. I plan on planting trees next spring along with a cover crop of hairy vetch, soy bean, and alfafa. So my question now is would it be good to plow the 2 acres 6-8" deep just to turn the soil and let it sit fallow thru the winter then disc it next spring, plant cover crops and trees and leave it alone?
The information I have seen on this thought generally says that fallow ground (plowed or not) is not a good thing. Wind and water erosion would remove even more of your soil.
There are several threads that mention keyline plows, and I believe Paul mentioned them in a podcast about swales. They were developed by some folks in Australia, are used to decompact the soil,and come with a planter option. Your local USDA go to person probably knows if/who owns one that will hire out to do the plowing for you one time.
There are several YouTube videos of the plow in action. This one (assuming the embed works) is just a description of the plow itself and why you might want to have one used a time or two over the next few years. <iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/RnwQf6j3WXc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
I agree with Lolly - if you can possibly afford to hire a keyline plow, that would be the best thing, of course plowed on the contour or on the keyline (which is slightly off contour in a specific way which I can't remember right now ). Second choice would be plowing on contour with a chisel plow, which is not as good for the soil as a keyline plow because it turns the soil more instead of slicing deeply through it.
Here is a diagram and explaination from, Permaculture A designers manual, Mollison. He recommends against turning the soil and instead suggest "ripping" the soil to looses up the hard pan and allow moisture and air to the root zone of compacted sights. Lawton also suggests this method is his food forest DVD.
SE, MI, Zone 5b "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
With standard plow and disc operations, the mycelia, earthworms, and other components of a soil are going to get hammered. If such disruptions are rare, the soil will rebound, but when this is carried out every year, it degrades and wears down a soil.
What do you hope to accomplish with one last cycle of disturbance? Weed control? Opening up the soil structure? There might be some reason to plow, but in most cases, the sooner that is stopped, the better. I suggest looking into green manures and cover crops to accomplish whatever goals you seek to achieve.
Get a horse and a single tine and skim it, with a few feet in between. The horse hooves may even have a practical effect at breaking the soil slightly. Plant a rye with it's good root system and let nature rebuild...Chop it down in the spring.
Brad Davies wrote: Here is a diagram and explaination from, Permaculture A designers manual, Mollison. He recommends against turning the soil and instead suggest "ripping" the soil to looses up the hard pan and allow moisture and air to the root zone of compacted sights. Lawton also suggests this method is his food forest DVD.
This is a brilliant plan. The Keyline plow is the ideal implement to use to increase depth of tilth, organic matter and humus content of the soil, CEC and water and nutrient holding capacity.
LivingWind wrote: Get a horse and a single tine and skim it, with a few feet in between. The horse hooves may even have a practical effect at breaking the soil slightly. Plant a rye with it's good root system and let nature rebuild...Chop it down in the spring.
The only reason to disturb cropland soil through various types of tillage, including inverting the soil or rototilling is to shape terrain, terraform it, create drainage systems, channel water channeling and create a system of linked,integrated, diverse garden sites with either rows (hills and furrows), flatland gardens or raised beds. This, if it needs to be done at all, should only be done once, i.e once for all time, followed by no till or minimal till agriculture, managed with human powered equipment and hand tools. Land with heavy, compactable soil, as Mollison says, may greatly benefit from tillage. The very best and often the only implement needed is the Yeomans plow. The beauty of this tool is that it can be used repeatedly with minimal disruption of the life cycles of soil dwelling creatures. Bottom plowing, disking, rototilling and even hilling and bedding, if done with any regularity, can in some cases decrease soil tilth and water holding capacity, increase compaction and destroy soil life. If heavy tillage is to be done, it should be immediately followed with cover crops, mulch, compost and possibly mineral fertilizers and left to rest for a yer or two; best plan is to divide the land into sections and rotate one tillage and a two year fallow stage procedure through all the sections, one at a time, or two at a time, allowing the fully restored, naturalized sections to be planted with crops for harvest. For those who can afford to own or rent a Yeomans, annual use of this implement on difficult soils (see the diagram in Mollison's book - see page posted here) is appropriate and healthy and can produce miraculous results in harmony with Nature. Here are pix of the Yeomans three shank plow and a large hiller bedder I used to own and used exactly the way I described above. https://picasaweb.google.com/103223907782626104592/TractorEquipment